Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria

Croos river Togo.

Ghana, slave castle on right.

Keyword: I spent a sad Christmas in an orphan home; stayed over in a Norwegian Danish slave fort in Ghana, voodoo in Benin and a surprising friendly welcome in Nigeria. Read also about my new “Wife” Frøya.

I stayed a while in Ghana working in an orphanage where I also spent Christmas. I was expecting to see and take part in some of the Christmas and New Year’s traditions of Ghana but as time passed it turned out that there wasn’t really any celebrations to be had so I spent Christmas alone in my room, very depressed and wishing so much to be with my family. When I finally received a message from them I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. This has to be the saddest Christmas I've had in a very long time.
I eventually thanked everyone for their hospitality and continued on my journey.
This is my niece and nephew who I left Norway for 3 years ago and I do miss them so.

I rode for many miles along the coast, with its beautiful beaches and scenery. I also came across a Danish / Norwegian slave-fort which is now in ruins. I went and checked it out, and it was difficult not to imagine all the cruelties which might have taken place there. The slave trade created a spiral of wars across Africa. Whether they had to capture people and enslave them or become slaves themselves.
I told the guide about my small travel budget and he said that he would allow me to stay inside the fort.
At first I was excited, but then I started to think... It wasn't that I was afraid of the dark or anything like that, but thought that perhaps the old buildings could make my imagination run wild and make me see images of some of the things that occurred there some 150 years ago. Nevertheless, I accepted the offer and the night went smoothly without any visits from ghosts or other weird things.... Somehow it was a very special feeling to lie there under a mosquito net and to think about all those sad times of many a year ago.

My bed in the castle.

Keta Castle.
You know, there is still Danish and Norwegian spoken here, with words such as "saks, gaffel, kniv osv" which mean "scissors, fork, knife, etc.". Many people also have Scandinavian surnames like Quist, Hansen ............. Some even have lighter skin most probably as a result of mixed relations of Scandinavians co-inhabiting. Of course, that is only my belief.

As usual, it is very hot and so I bike mostly in the mornings and afternoons but not in the middle of the day as it is far too hot then.
I have now arrived in Togo which is a very small French speaking Country.
The border authorities granted me a 7 days visa without any problems as well as often being invited to their homes' for overnight stays, which is naturally always nice for me.
Get problem with my skins, to hot and humid.

Benin is another small African country. No problems with the visa at the border. They only gave me a 2-day visa, which I had to renew as soon as I arrived in the capital.
Benin and Togo are all “voodoo homes” and I saw many different voodoo-symbols and sacrificial sites. Normally they offer chicken, etc. as around 40% of the population completely believe in this method of worship.
I participated with a bit of sacrifice, wishing for a safe and happy ride for the rest of my trip.
I have been told many times that there are many people in Africa praying for me.

Woodoo docktor. He offers things on the right side .

In Benin, I had to arrange my Nigerian visa and I must confess that I was expecting many problems as I had previously read in the Lonely Planet magazine that in order to enter Nigeria you must have a written invitation, a pre-booked hotel, the documentation to prove that you have money and an airfare ticket out of the country etc. I walked into the Nigerian Embassy without any of these things hoping that everything would go well. I explained my mission and showed them a newspaper with some reports about my trip. Amazingly it only took me 10 min and I received a 1-month visa without any more questions asked.

Whilst here, I spent one night on the streets sleeping with some homeless people and alcoholics. I couldn’t find a good place for my tent so I asked if I could stay with them. They enjoyed hearing stories about my trip. Surprisingly, I felt very safe the whole night, and for sure they all kept an eye on me that night. This is something I've noticed several times before, people looking out for me. It's in these sort of places where I feel the safest. To tell you the truth, I have come to feel really safe in most places.

Bush meat Nigeria
When I arrived at the border there were an unusual amount of control posts along the way. Everything went without any problems, and everyone were very curious about my journey. I think I was stopped at least 20 times that day. The reason for there being so many control posts along the whole Nigeria border is because of the large amount of crime.
But I must say that Nigerians impressed me with their happy nature. People smile all the time. So much in fact, that I found myself smiling a lot and always in a good mood. They love to hear what I do and they thought how nice it is to be able to make friends with a white travelling man on his travels around the world. I’ve been here a week now and I have been given free accomodation in a hotel, food every day and actually some people actually supported me by giving some money. The police also gave me bananas, oranges and water.

Police give me orange.
One day I heard a noise from the rear wheel of my bike and discovered that 7 spokes had broken. The wheel was twisted and I couldn’t ride my bike any more. I didn’t have spare spokes and I was a long distance from the nearest city so I spoke to a policeman about my problem and told him that I needed some help. That a biker should have problems in their country was unusual. He stopped a truck and told the driver to take me to the nearest village. There, the city’s town Chief offered me accommodation.
I couldn’t find spokes or an ATM in that place and I was just as far as I had been before. One of the guys from the village kindly gave me $20 so that I could take a taxi to the nearest town. I rode in the taxi with the rear wheel and finally got it repaired and returned to the country town. Some families invited me in to share some good food and palm wine.
Sure, all this has made such a good impression on me. The humility and happy disposition of the Nigerians. Now, to me, it seems strange to hear of all of those warnings about crimes and things. Nigeria is one of the countries which I had been warned many times not to go to. Naturally, they have their problems, but I think they are on track for the better. So, when I got there, expecting all those warnings to come to pass, it turns out that Nigeria is actually one of the friendliest countries I have visited so far.

My "new" wife
I called my bike Frøya. She is my wife; she is not especially beautiful, in fact, a bit heavy-set and chubby. But she is strong and resistant. I have been very fond of her up to now. We had a little turbulent start in Africa and needed constant breaks from each other. But now, we have found the tone and things are going better. Africans are very respectful towards my wife and there is such a full meaningful understanding between us that I want her next to me all the time specially when I sleep.

Yours Frøya and Rune

By Calendar: "Vikings never give up".

Support independent publishing: buy this calendar on Lulu.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos, Rune! Your stories are great. I enjoy reading everything. Thinking of you...Jeanette (your Public Relations agent in USA)

Lalo Porto said...

Hey Rune, It is good to hear that you are well... I'm doing well also, I have found a boat the will take me to Cuba and then to Guatemala, where I'll keep cycling southbound... Take care, from you biking friend, Lalo

PerSempreAmburgo said...

Hi Rune!

I'm happy that you had such good experiences especially in Nigeria.

I told my flatmates about the worm coming out of your skin. but I couldn't find the picture on your page. Where is it?
Anyway ... I hope this is not gonna happen to you again.

Wish you all the best for the next stations of your trip!

Greetings from Germany,

(that guy you met at Ocean View Internet Cafe in Cape Coast)

Anonymous said...

Hang in there, Rune! It sounds like you are really gaining wisdom through your amazing experiences. Good luck & have fun with Froya.


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